BRIOCHE PEPIN

Brioche + Pastry Cream + Chocolate. Do I need to say anything else? This is the stuff that dreams are made of. And we all need good dreams at the moment. Rich, decadent, but pretty straightforward to bake, I promise you. My recipe is a slight modification of the one from a book I adore: Duchess Bake Shop. Make the dough and the pastry cream the evening before you want to bake them, for a super easy baking day, with almost no work involved.

BRIOCHE PEPIN
(slightly modified from Duchess Bake Shop)

for the brioche dough:
9g osmo-tolerant yeast (or regular yeast)
30g whole milk, slightly warm
280g all-purpose flour
30g sugar
1 tsp salt
3 large eggs
140g unsalted butter at room temperature

for pastry cream:
370g whole milk
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
80g sugar
80g egg yolks
15g cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
30g unsalted butter

to finish:
1 cup mini-chocolate chips
1 egg yolk

The day before… Make the brioche dough. Dissolve the yeast in warm milk. Add all ingredients except butter to the bowl of a Kitchen Aid mixer, and knead with the dough hook for about 4 minutes, until smooth. Add the butter in small pieces, kneading in low-speed, and waiting until each added piece is incorporated before adding more. Once all butter is added, knead until very elastic and smooth, about 15 minutes, always at low-speed.  Place the dough in a bowl coated with oil, leave at room temperature for 90 minutes, then transfer to the fridge overnight.

Make the pastry cream. Heat the milk and vanilla paste in a saucepan until small bubbles form around the edge of the liquid. As the  milk heats, vigorously whisk the egg yolks with sugar in a bowl. Add the cornstarch and salt and continue whisking until there are no lumps.  Slowly add the hot milk/vanilla mixture, tempering the yolks. Once all the liquid is added, transfer it back to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for about 5 minutes, in low-heat, whisking constantly and removing the pan from the heat if it starts to thicken and bubble too furiously. Pass the mixture through a fine sieve, add the butter, and place a plastic film on the surface. Refrigerate overnight.

On the following day. Roll out the dough. Remove the dough from the fridge and allow to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Roll it out on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle measuring about 20 x 10 inches. Add the whole amount of pastry cream on the surface of the dough, spreading it uniformly. Sprinkle chocolate chips all over. Fold both long sides of the rectangle to meet in the center (see composite photo of my post). Cut the dough in half lengthwise exactly where the edges meet. You will end up with two long and thin rectangles about 20 x 5 inches.  Cut each of those in 8 pieces, so that you have a total of 16 small pieces.  Place them over parchment paper and cover with a light cloth. Proof at room temperature for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Heat the oven to 380F. Brush each brioche with egg yolk and bake for about 20 minutes, until golden brown. Some filling might spill to the sides, just clean it up after baking.
.
ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I was inspired by my friend Nancy (the one who gave me the pyramid shaped mold) to make these babies. She baked a batch last week and raved about them. I can see why. Truly delicious, although I must confess we just shared a very small one for quality control. The whole batch went to the project Common Table (meals for homeless). They are having a tough time now, instead of a sit-down dinner it is take-out. Everything has to be individually wrapped and a volunteer comes to our door and picks up the stuff I bake, so we have no direct contact. Odd times. Scary times.

Anyway, this was a fun bake. I wanted to make as many as possible from a single batch, so I changed the way the dough is shaped and cut. I managed to have 16 little brioches instead of only 8 bigger ones. To that I added two batches of a Chai Tea cake, and hopefully they had enough to share.

Brioche is a dough I would not attempt without a KitchenAid, because you must knead it extensively. I like to add all ingredients except the butter, work the dough until it starts to get smooth, then add the butter little by little. Once all the butter is in, take your time and let the machine work its magic at low-speed, until the dough is smooth, and if you pull it, it does not rip apart, instead it stretches beautifully. If you pay attention to this simple rule, you will have perfect brioche buns.

As the brioche baked, some filling oozed out from most of them. The same happened to Nancy, and I am not sure you can avoid it, although if some of my reader have experience with it, please leave me a comment. When leakage takes place, that stuff can be scraped gently and placed on a spoon. I advise waiting a few minutes to avoid burning your mouth. And pups cannot have it, no matter how pretty they stay sitting, like angels, because… chocolate.

ONE YEAR AGO: Sakura Buche du Printempts

TWO YEARS AGO: Clay Pot Roast Chicken

THREE YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, April 2017

FOUR YEARS AGO: Secret Recipe Club: Chicken Korma and a Bonus Recipe

FIVE YEARS AGO: Josey Baker’s Olive Bread

SIX YEARS AGO: Almonds, A Cookbook Review

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Pomegranate-Molasses Glazed Carrots

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Codruta’s Rolled Oat Sourdough Bread

NINE YEARS AGO: Roasted Corn and Tomato Risotto

TEN YEARS AGO: Light Rye Bread

 

 

IN MY KITCHEN: APRIL 2020

Staying safe in Corona virus time: read the guest blog post by Phillip Klebba here. A video summarizing important tips can be found here

It is time to invite you all for a walk around our kitchen. In My Kitchen posts started many years ago with Celia and is now hosted by Sherry, from  Sherry’s Pickings. If you read my blog regularly, you know that I like to start this type of post with gifts, and there are quite a few to share (including the orchid from the picture, a gift from our good friends Lorne and Wasu, the last people we had over at our home before social isolation).

And now to the many gifts that landed in my kitchen in the past three months


From our dear friends from California, Marie Louise and Rocky, dried persimmon slices from a farmers market they visit weekly. These are just amazing, soft, sweet but not overly so. We loved them… diced and served with yogurt and some cereal or even to nibble before going to bed with a cup of tea. Delicious

From my friend Nancy, a fantastic patissier from Canada, a double gift: a pyramid-shaped silicone mold and a miracle-cloth that does wonders to clean countertops. She knows me well… The mold is so cool, I envision plenty of desserts using it.

 

From my friend Margie, who also coached me when I made Springerlee cookies for the first time (still need to blog about that!), these gorgeous wooden molds, carefully crafted. Aren’t they works of art?  I can tell you one thing, I won’t be waiting for the holiday season to bake a batch.

From Phil, the Ebay Scavenger Extraordinaire, two plates from Anthropologie, which I believe have my name all over them…  He always surprises me with the coolest stuff.

From Carlos, my tent-baker friend… a gorgeous Bundt pan. Carlos recently moved and decided to reduce his number of baking gadgets, so I gladly took this beauty out of his hands. I love the design, and already have one particular cake in my mind to put this baby to use.  Thank you, Carlos!

Now, let me go over a few things that you might enjoy and were recent acquisitions to the Bewitching Kitchen

In our kitchen…

A little cookie cutter set with a bit of an unusual shape, I have a specific bake in mind for them, but it will have to wait until this coronavirus nightmare passes by.

In our kitchen…

A herb-stripper. At first I was not sure if I would like it and use it, but I tell you, it’s pretty amazing, particularly for thyme, but also works very well for parsley. You just get the proper opening size and run them through. Leaves get nicely removed, and you are left with the stem to discard, compost or save to use in stocks.

In our kitchen…

Pistachio butter. This stuff is very very good. I know I can make my own, and have done so for bakes in the past, but this saves a lot of extra work and it’s by far the best I’ve tasted of all commercial products I tried.


In our kitchen…


Speaking of pistachios… I show you one typical lunch from the man I married. He calls it a gourmet toast. I call it the reason why I need to buy pistachio paste, because no matter how many bags of pistachios I buy, they are always almost empty when I need them (sigh).

In our kitchen…

I put Nancy’s gift to use, in a very simple way, just tempered white chocolate, dyed it pink and poured into the mold, which I painted with gold luster dust.  Instead of a complicated filling, I just mixed slightly warmed up Nutella with some sprinkles and added a tiny amount to each cavity. Of course this was not a real bonbon, the chocolate shell is very thick, it was more like a bar of chocolate with filling, but I must say it turned out very delicious.

In our kitchen…

Virginia Gourmet peanuts… My gosh, these are amazing!  Phil found them at Marshalls, and he immediately went back to the store and bought one more can (they are huge). They are the best peanuts ever.  Not sure what they mean by “hand cooked”, but whatever they did, I embrace it.

In our kitchen…

or should I say in our basement?

A lot of organization took place. We have the same metal shelves in our lab, they are sturdy and neat. I got a lot of plastic containers to store stuff and also made a complete inventory of what we have. Feels good.


I have now lists of baking gadgets, baking ingredients, silicone molds in a document in the computer. Oddly enough, it all started before the coronavirus hit.

In our kitchen…

We win some, we lose some. I fell in love with this teacup and bought it. Yes, it looks beautiful, and it does work wonders to brew using loose tea. However, the design makes it pretty obvious why classic tea cups have…. handles!  It is simply impossible to hold the cup because it gets unbearably hot. So it’s frustrating that if I use it to brew tea, I then need to pour the tea into a proper tea cup so I can sip it. No bueno.

In our kitchen…

On the subject of tea, this White Ambrosia a recent passion of mine. I learned about it not too long ago in a magazine called Tea Time, and ordered some to try. I love it, and intend to use it in baking in the near future.

In our kitchen…

We made Fiori di Sicilia flavored sugar cookies for our grand daughter’s 5th Bday… and included a few that depicted some of the pups… BogeyQuitThat, Buck and Fendi (one of their pups).

In our kitchen…


Polycarbonate chocolate molds. As  we face isolation, one of the things I decided was to learn a new skill, and making bonbons seemed like a good idea. I will share my adventures with you soon.

This pandemic is turning everyone’s life upside down. We are all scared and with good reason. Staying at home is what we can and must do to contain the spread of this nasty virus. Home we are, and some furry friends seem quite ok with this Sunday-Day that never ends. Let’s see what they’ve been up to….


The year started with the celebration of BogeyQT™ 11th Bday. He got special goodies and a festive hat, which we think complemented well his elegantly black spotted handsomeness…

As we were admiring the photos and deciding which one should be kept to share with his huge crowd of fans (I know nobody reads this piece because of my chocolate molds), Oscar had different ideas.


So you got a sissy hat for the Big Annoying One. Pitiful. Here, get a load of my displeasure with it. First I stole it, then I dealt with it properly. And since we are talking about annoying situations…. me and brother have another grievance to share with OUR readers…


FAKE NEWS!!!! These accusations have no basis in reality. I do love sushi and may or may not have inhaled a couple of pieces, but prefer concoctions with a higher amount of sugar, like freshly baked banana bread.

We have to admit that this big boy enjoys food. Any food. His tombstone could read: “He died doing what he loved most, wolfing down a bowl of chow”

Both Oscar and Buck think they got a lot more class and beauty….


Although we all know some sides of Osky’s persona that leave a lot to be desired as far as beauty is concerned….


That is his personal favorite position to sleep, just looking at him my neck hurts.

The pups have a final message for all of you….

And above all…

This too shall pass…. 

I hope to see you in 3 months for another In My Kitchen tour. I hope the world will be a better place then. I hope nights in which I wake up afraid of dying will be fewer and fewer. I hope we don’t lose loved ones. I hope you don’t either. I hope. I will always hope for the light in the end of the tunnel.  Until then, be vigilant. Be safe. Stay home.

ONE YEAR AGO:  In My Kitchen, April 2019

TWO YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, April 2018

THREE YEARS AGO: First Monday Favorite

FOUR YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, April 2016

FIVE YEARS AGO: Spring has Sprung with Suzanne Goin

SIX YEARS AGO: Chai Brownies

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Pomegranate-Molasses Glazed Carrots

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Peach Glaze

NINE YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

TEN YEARS AGO: Spring Rolls on a Spring Day

 

THE HOME BAKERS COLLECTIVE: MARCH PROJECT

If you don’t know what the Home Bakers Collective is all about, please read my post about it with a click here. This month’s challenge was… surprise surprise…. conceived by yours truly! In case you did not notice, we are following the painful path of elimination through the Great American Baking Show that aired in December. Seems like ages ago, as we face  difficult, truly stressful times. At some point I did not know if we could even meet this challenge. Things degenerated too quickly, nobody could find flour and many other baking ingredients were scarce (and still are), but my baking  buddies stood up to the task and here we are. The brief is: bake a pie to say goodbye to winter, dedicated or inspired by someone you miss. Mine is a Blueberry Pie, and I dedicate it to my stepson Alex. More about it on comments after the recipe.

Note added after publication: our next challenge, designed by Tanya, will be…. DONUTS!  Any shape, any kind… If you’d like to join, bake some and we’ll soon figure out a way to share them all…

BLUEBERRY-BERGAMOT PIE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by several sources)

for pie crust:
200 g cold, unsalted butter
1 large egg
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
85 g ice-cold water
350 g all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
egg wash (1 egg beaten with a teaspoon of water)

for the filling:
3 pints fresh blueberries.
Finely grated zest of 1 orange, plus 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice.
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons cornstarch.
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
1 drop food-grade bergamot essential oil (optional)

Make the pie crust. Mix the water, egg and vinegar in a bowl, reserve in the fridge. Add the flour, salt and sugar to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few seconds to mix, but just a few seconds, you do not want to heat up the ingredients.

Add the very cold butter in pieces and pulse briefly to form clumps of butter the size of peas. Turn the processor on and add the cold water/egg mixture through the opening of the lid. Process until the dough starts to come together, then stop immediately.  Grab the dough and press it as a disk over plastic wrap.  Reserve in the fridge for one hour.

Divide the dough in two parts, one slightly bigger than the other (to form the bottom crust). Roll the bigger portion as a round with about 3mm in thickness. Drape it over the pan and reserve in the fridge while you prepare the filling. Roll the second portion in the same thickness to cover the top. Using small cookie cutters make a design on the top if desired, and cut decorations from the same piece of dough. Place them in the freezer.

Heat the oven to 350F.

Make the filling. In a medium bowl, gently toss together blueberries, orange zest and juice, sugar, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon, and bergamot oil.  Pour the  mixture over the bottom crust, dot with butter and cover with the frozen disk. Brush the surface with egg wash.

Bake until the filling begins to bubble out of the vents and the top crust is golden brown, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 1 to 2 hours to let the filling set before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I had a lot of fun making this pie, even if compared to the fancy designs made by serious pie artists, mine was pretty amateurish. I dedicated this pie to my stepson Alex. There are two food items that I will always associate with him, because he loves them so much. Blueberries and crab. No, not together, he is a man of fine taste… 😉  When he lived with us as a young teenager and blueberries were in season, we always kept many little containers in the fridge, so that he could have his blueberry fix with every meal. Steamed crab legs were another favorite of his, our dinners would take a long time, as the three of us went through an impressive number of crab legs. Unfortunately, we don’t see him as often as we would like. He is a physician in New York, a resident in Interventional Radiology working right in the center of the coronavirus pandemic. We wish we lived closer and that he could have enjoyed this pie, sitting right at our table with his adorable partner Courtnie…

Please make sure to stop by The Bakers Collective to see what my fellow tent-bakers did for this challenge. Not everyone could join, for obvious reasons. Life has been stressful for the whole human population. It is a strange way to feel connected to the whole world, and I hope that this nightmare will have a happy ending soon. Be well, be safe, be healthy and STAY HOME.

ONE YEAR AGO: Another Twisted Sister of the Shepherd’s Pie

TWO YEARS AGO: Cashew Chicken, My Way

THREE YEARS AGO: Two Deliciously Simple Salads

FOUR YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, April 2016

FIVE YEARS AGO: Spring has Sprung with Suzanne Goin

SIX YEARS AGO: Chai Brownies

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Pomegranate-Molasses Glazed Carrots

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Peach Glaze

NINE YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

TEN YEARS AGO: Spring Rolls on a Spring Day

 

MOROCCAN TURKEY PIE WITH OLIVE OIL CRUST

Staying safe in Corona virus time: read the guest blog post by Phillip Klebba here. A video summarizing important tips can be found here

We don’t eat sweets that much. I bake a lot but it all goes to departmental colleagues, senior citizens at our town center, and homeless meals. What is a baker to do, when a pandemic forces everyone into isolation and she has very limited outlets to share sweets?  She bakes savory stuff, that is. Like this crazy departure on Shepherd’s Pie, made lighter because the topping is cauliflower-based. The lightness is immediately neutralized by enclosing it in a pie crust. It all balanced out beautifully,  and we were both quite pleased with our dinner. Normally I would make a salad to go with it, but it felt like a complete meal without it.

 

MOROCCAN TURKEY PIE WITH OLIVE OIL CRUST
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by many sources)

for the pie crust:
250g all-purpose flour (260 grams)
1/8 teaspoon salt
50g olive oil (50 grams)
125 g cold water

Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl, then add the olive oil, stir with a fork until the flour gets coated with it, forming a crumbly ness. Slowly add cold water and knead gently just until the dough starts to comes together.  Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate one hour before using.

Roll it over plastic wrap lightly coated with flour, then use it to cover a 9-inch pie pan of your choice. Freeze for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400F. Remove crust from the freezer, cover with saran wrap or parchment paper and add weights. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool completely before filling.

for the filling:
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 + 1/2 pounds ground turkey
2 large carrots, cut in pieces
8 oz mushrooms cut in pieces
2 celery ribs, minced
1 + 1/2 tsp salt
1 shallot, minced
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1 tablespoon harissa, or to taste

Brown the ground turkey in a large skillet using 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and seasoning with 1 tsp salt. Once the meat is brown, transfer to a bowl. Add one more tablespoon of olive oil and saute the carrots, shallot and mushrooms, sprinkling all the spices and the final 1/2 tsp salt over the veggies as they cook. Once the veggies start to get some color, add the harissa, the ground turkey reserved, and mix everything gently. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool it completely.

for the topping:
1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
70g raw almonds
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
½ teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp paprika

Arrange the cauliflower florets in a steamer basket, cover, and steam for 15 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender. Check after 12 minutes, if a fork goes through easily, stop the steaming.

Put the almonds, olive oil, nutritional yeast, salt and paprika in a Vitamix type blender (or food processor) and add the steamed cauliflower. Blend, increasing the power until it gets very smooth and thickens a little.  Remove from the blender and reserve until ready to top the pie. Can be made a day in advance, keep it in the fridge.

Assemble the pie. Heat the oven to 400F. Add the turkey filling to the crust, spoon the cauliflower topping. If desired, add a pattern using the tines of a fork.

Bake for 30 minutes. If you like a darker topping run it under a broiler protecting the edges of the pie crust. Allow the pie to cool for 15 minutes before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: If you omit the pie crust, this would turn into a pretty low-carb meal, that will still be quite satisfying. Keep that option in mind, although then I think a small salad could be a nice touch. Just lightly coat a Pyrex pie dish with olive oil and add the cooled turkey mixture, spread the cauliflower topping and bake. Some grated cheese could be very nice, we usually opt for a meal that is low in saturated fat, so we skip it.

I am very pleased with the olive oil crust. There are many recipes in cookbooks and websites, some will instruct you to do it as a press-on crust, but I did not like that at all. I adjusted the amount of flour and fat to produce a dough with good consistency for rolling. As a general rule, olive oil crusts need to bake for 35 to 40 minutes total, so depending on the type of filling you have, how moist it is, you can blind bake it for 10 minutes as I did, or skip it all together. Make sure the total baking time does not go over 40 minutes, or the crust might get too tough. It is a nice option for those avoiding dairy or trying to reduce the level of saturated fat.

 

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Another Twisted Sister of the Shepherd’s Pie (what a nice coincidence!)

TWO YEARS AGO: Cashew Chicken, My Way

THREE YEARS AGO: Two Deliciously Simple Salads

FOUR YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, April 2016

FIVE YEARS AGO: Spring has Sprung with Suzanne Goin

SIX YEARS AGO: Chai Brownies

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Pomegranate-Molasses Glazed Carrots

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Peach Glaze

NINE YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

TEN YEARS AGO: Spring Rolls on a Spring Day

 

 

YIN & YANG VIENNOISE BREAD

Staying safe in Corona virus time: read the guest blog post by Phillip Klebba here

During difficult times we often see the best coming out of people. Acts of kindness, generosity, and love try to counteract the fear and uncertainties that surround us. This bread, with its dual nature of darkness and lightness brings this image to my mind. I enjoyed the process of making it, and hope you consider baking a batch in your kitchen, trying to focus on all the positive things we do have.

 

YIN & YANG VIENNOISE BREAD
(slightly modified from Bake-Street)

300 g bread flour
200 g all purpose flour
3 g osmo-tolerant yeast (or regular instant dry)
255 g milk
40 g egg (whisk one egg and weigh the amount needed)
50 g granulated sugar
75 g butter, at room temperature
10 g salt
20 g cocoa powder + 15 g brown sugar
1 egg, beaten + pinch of salt

Add the flours, yeast, egg, salt, and 3/4 of the milk to a KitchenAid type bowl.  Using the dough hook, mix until the ingredients are incorporated, then decide if you need to add the rest of the milk. Once the milk is added, with the machine still running, add the sugar in two additions. Knead for about 4 minutes at low-speed, then add the butter, one tablespoon or so at a time.  Wait until each  piece disappears into the dough before adding more butter. Knead until you get good gluten development, probably 4 to 5 minutes longer. The dough should stretch smoothly without tearing.

Divide the dough in two portions, one weighing 40 g less than the other. To the smaller batch, add the cocoa powder and brown sugar and knead by hand or in the machine until the cocoa is fully distributed. It will take a little time and effort. Place both balls of dough in separate oiled bowls, and allow them to proof at room temperature for 2 and a half hours.

Divide each dough in five portions, each between 90 and 95g. Form each as a little ball and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll each as a long oblong shape about 4mm thick. Place different colors of dough on top and bottom, form as little loaves, seam at the bottom.  Use a very sharp blade to make slashes on the surface, being very determinate. Any hesitation and the cut won’t be sharp enough. You need to see the different color of dough showing underneath. Place the shaped and cut loaves over parchment paper and let them proof at room temperature for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Heat the oven to 400F.  Paint each loaf with an egg wash, and bake for about 16 minutes. Cool completely on a rack before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The most interesting aspect of this bread is how the cocoa powder affects texture and resulting oven spring. The white dough is very smooth, stretches easily, and wraps around the dark dough like a soft blanket. The cocoa-containing dough resists rolling a lot more and has a dry feel to it. When it is inside, it will have less oven spring, so the outer dough is not going to open as dramatically as when the dough placement is reversed. As far as taste goes, it will depend on your goal for the bread. If you will enjoy it plain or with a little butter, the light dough inside is the way to go. But if you toast it and enjoy it with jam (orange jam would be awesome according to Eva from Bake-Street), the cocoa kind will be hard to beat.

 

Yin and Yang. Focus on the positive. We know how to deal with this pandemic. Imagine what it was like on the times of the Black Death, when not only people were dying left and right, but nobody knew why. Nobody knew what to do. Focus on the positive. Do everything you can to maintain social distance and to keep your personal environment clean.

The bread is soft, the cocoa crust slightly harder than the lighter version, but not much. These little loaves would be perfect for a brunch on a Sunday morning, or with a nice cup of tea as the sun sets. Focus on the positive, we will beat this.

I am very fond of Eva’s blog Bake-Street, having made quite a few of her recipe over the past few years, they are very detailed and always work as expected. Make sure to stop by and subscribe, you will be glad you did!

ONE YEAR AGO: Extreme Chocolate Cupcakes

TWO YEARS AGO: Sunflower Seed Kamut Sourdough

THREE YEARS AGO: The Joys of Grating Squash

FOUR YEARS AGO: Auberge Pecan-Walnut Bread

MACARONS FOR ALL SEASONS AND REASONS

Staying safe in Corona virus time: read the guest blog post by Phillip Klebba here

Crazy times ahead for all of us. I find it difficult to go on blogging as if life is normal, but on the other hand, this site is one of my ways to feel connected, and blogging keeps me sane. Or so I hope. Instead of sharing a recipe, I will talk briefly about a series of macarons that happened in our kitchen over the past few months, since last December to be more precise. When we had no idea of all that was probably already brewing in our beautiful planet. Macarons always make me smile, the idea is to bring a smile to you too…

All recipes in this collection used the same basic method that you can find here.

I start with perhaps my favorite…

These were decorated with air-brush and stencil. Some were piped as donuts and topped with drizzles of Candy melts and sprinkles. The filling was a simple almond buttercream (butter, powdered sugar and smooth almond butter).

 

These were made around the holiday season, using a white chocolate ganache with mint, and decorated in two different ways. Some were painted with golden pearl dust and topped with little stars (for detailed technique, look here). Others were decorated with Royal icing, as at the time we were busy making sugar cookies and had a lot of icing laying around.

 

Very similar filling, except that I used mini-mint chocolate chips to make the ganache. Shells were left plain and decorated with air-brush and stencils.  Come to think of it, a blueberry filling would turn these perfect for the 4th of July!

 

For these shells, I divided the batter in two portions, before proceeding with the macaronage step (when things are still pretty roughly mixed). One portion stayed clear, the other was dyed with gel food color (Chesnut by Progel). Each was placed in a small piping bag, and both were slipped inside a larger bag with a round piping tip (see top right photo in the above picture). The filling, a coffee ganache, was from this post.

 

Galaxy Macarons were all the rage a few years ago. I made them three times, but to be honest, I have not reached my desired goal yet. The batter is divided in four portions, dyed black, dark blue, light blue and pink.  My main mistake is using too much of the darker colors, so they  become too dominant. But this batch was my best, and I decided to share. Stay tuned for future adventures in this theme. Filling was a blueberry ganache made along the lines of this recipe.

 

Very simple batch, dyed Purple using Artisan Accents gel color. As soon as the batter is piped, sprinkles are added on top. Some shells were left naked and decorated later with Candy melts. The filling was another variation of the Galaxy macs, this time using Black Cherry Jam.

Very simple design using once again the air-brush and a stencil. Shells were dyed with a mixture of green and yellow gel dye from Artisan Accents. The filling was American type buttercream (butter and icing sugar) with the addition of Tart Apple flavoring from Amoretti.

 

Loved these! Shells were dyed orange (Artisan Accents gel color), and the filling was a white chocolate ganache with Passion Fruit flavoring once again from Amoretti. After filling, macarons were dipped in a mixture of “magic shell” (like this version). Before the coating set, Sprinkle Party!

 

Thrilled about this and urge you to consider flavoring the shells this way. Simply open a bag of Double Chai tea (I used Stash) and add to the dry almond-powdered sugar mixture. Follow your recipe as you normally would. Shells were decorated with air-brush and several different stencils. The filling was a modification of that from my recent batch. I made a white chocolate ganache and added to it the leftover mango-jellie that I had in the fridge.  The chai flavor is amazing on the shells, and I can tell you I’ll be playing with all sorts of teas in the future.

 

This batch follows along the lines of mixing several colors (in this case purple, red and orange), but instead of separating the batter, you simply paint the inside of the empty bag with a stripe of undiluted food dye.  Fill with the full amount of batter to be piped, and as it moves along it will drag the colors with it. The pattern will be random, the proportion of colors changing as you go. Two things I do not like about this method: you need to make sure the dye reaches way to the bottom of the bag, close to the opening, and as you add the second and third colors, there is a high chance you will mess up the stripes already there. Still, it is a very popular method to make colorful shells. The filling was a Cranberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream which in fact I had made to use in a cake the day before. Recipe should be on the blog soon.

 

Last but not least, a similar effect using a different technique which I read about it in a forum for Mac-addicts on Facebook. Instead of painting the bag, just add a few drops of gel dye on top of the batter once it is ready to go. Quickly move it around with a toothpick, fill the bag and start piping. The picture on the right top corner shows how I did it. You can use many more colors in this case, as you are not limited by the small area inside the piping bag. I loved it! Very easy to do, no mess, no fuss. Expect to see more of this technique in the future. These macs were filled with a White Chocolate Coconut Whipped Ganache. I made it using shredded coconut, simmering heavy cream with it, allowing to cool, straining, and proceeding with a regular ganache.

 

I hope you enjoyed this small collection of macarons, and that it made your social isolation a bit more colorful…

 

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Lentils and Radicchio? Yes, please!

TWO YEAR AGO: Tres Leches Cake

THREE YEARS AGO: The Joys of Grating Squash

FOUR YEARS AGO: Auberge-Pecan Walnut Bread

FIVE YEARS AGO: Gluten-free and Vegan Raspberry Bars

SIX YEARS AGO: Lasserre, a French Classic

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Sourdough Bread with Walnuts and Dates

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Apricot Glaze

NINE YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

TEN YEARS AGO: Pork Tenderloin and Blue Cheese

 

COVID19: KEEPING YOURSELF SAFE

A guest post written by my beloved husband….

Originally posted on March 16, 2020; updated on March 19, 2020

Avoiding COVID‐19

We are witnessing a rapidly evolving pandemic, that is unpleasantly similar to the plagues of the past, and more like science fiction than the reality we took for granted. In many ways COVID‐19 most resembles the Spanish flu from 100 years ago: it’s mortality rate (currently 3.8% vs 2%), it’s R0 (R-naught = contagiousness; currently 3.1 vs 2.0), and its rapid spread across the world. The Spanish Flu of 1918 killed 650,000 americans and >50 million people worldwide. COVID‐19 is related to two other coronaviruses, SARS and MERS. Like them, it is a biosafety level 3 (BSL‐3) pathogen, that’s now loose and uncontained in the population.

Even a few days ago I heard people minimizing or dismissing the severity of this situation. But, as it became known that 12,000 new cases arose in Italy in the past 48 h, and 370 people died yesterday (Italy has a mortality rate of 7.3 %), that unrealistic viewpoint was replaced by fear and panic. No vaccines or anti‐viral medications exist for MERS, SARS or COVID‐19, so we cannot expect medical intervention to stop the pandemic in the near future. The best person to listen to for advice on how to guard against coronavirus is Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He is one of the world’s foremost experts on viral pathogens. Still, I read an article asking for guidance on how to avoid contracting COVID‐19, and so I’m summarizing some practical advice about that. You may not need this input, but I want to provide it in case anyone wants it. My wife Sally and I were trained by excellent microbiologists, from whom we learned procedures that prevent contamination. We use them in our laboratory, and as we watched COVID‐19 progress over the past weeks we made a plan to adapt these methods for our home. We are in a high‐risk group, but with this approach we hope to avoid contracting the virus. Given its very contagious nature, that’s a tall order. What follows below is a step‐by‐step plan for how to change life at home.

1. Prepare disinfectants.Coronaviruses are microscopic particles, invisible to the naked eye, that have an RNA genome within a lipid bilayer membrane that also contains proteins. The membrane makes the virus hardy and protects it outside the host cell.   However, most viruses, including COVID‐19, are susceptible to destruction by bleach or alcohol. The first thing to do at home is to prepare two types of spray bottles, one containing 10% bleach, and one containing 70% alcohol (either isopropanol or ethyl alcohol). If you are not knowledgeable about making such solutions, here’s how to do it. For the bleach solution, mix 1 part CLOROX with 9 parts water. Do not use cheap, off brands of bleach; CHLOROX contains stabilizers that maintain its potency for up to 5 days after dilution in water.  Ordinary bleach loses efficacy within 1 day of dilution in water.  For the 70% alcohol, you can buy bottles of 70% isopropanol in supermarkets or pharmacies. You can also buy EVERCLEAR (it is 95% ethyl alcohol) in a liquor store, and mix 3 parts EVERCLEAR with 1 part water. Isopropanol is also available as a 95% solution, so you can dilute that the same way.  10% bleach, 70% isopropanol or 70% ethyl alcohol inactivate and kill COVID‐19 within a minute of exposure. Put these solutions in 1 qt spray bottles (available at supermarkets, pharmacies and hardware stores) for general use. We also prepare small, 60 mL spray bottles of 70% alcohol to carry in a pocket or purse, and use them to spray down anything that we suspect might be contaminated, including our hands, shopping cart handles, door knobs, gas pump dispensers, etc. You can find these small spray bottles in pharmacies or eye centers, because they are often used to hold eyeglass cleaning solution. Don’t skimp when decontaminating something with bleach or alcohol: give it a thorough coating, until it’s wet with the liquid, then let it sit for at least a minute.

2. Eliminate hand‐to‐mouth contact.When you are in a potentially contaminated environment, whether it’s a public place (grocery store, office, classroom) or in your home, it’s crucial to avoid touching your face. That’s the first priority in the laboratory, but it’s not easy to remember or accomplish. One tip that helps is to think about keeping your hands below the level of your shoulders. If you don’t raise your hands above your shoulders, then you cannot touch your face. Second, maintain a discreet distance from other people, a few feet away. Coronaviruses are quite hardy.  Recent findings (Mar. 17, New England Journal of Medicine) describe the survival of  COVID-19 (also called SARS-Cov-2)  and the related SARS (also called SARS-Cov-1), in the air and on different surfaces: in the air, 3-4 h;  on cardboard, 24 h; on copper, 4 h; on plastic or stainless steel, 2-4 d. Respiratory viruses are present in fluids from the lungs of infected people, but coronaviruses are not airborne… that is, they don’t fly. When they are coughed or sneezed or breathed out in the respiratory droplets of sick people, they have a maximum range of projection of a few feet, before the droplets fall to the floor, a table, or a countertop.  Hence, keep your distance (6 ft) from other people, but especially from anyone who has symptoms of sickness.  A sick person may contaminate others by coughing or sneezing or talking, any of which can project droplets of the virus. But, those droplets fall out of the air in a few minutes, limiting the scope of direct contagion.  On the other hand, a sick person walking through a room touching things leaves a trail of millions of viral particles, that in the case of COVID-19 remain viable and infectious for days.  The head of a pin is large enough to hold 70 million virus particles.  If a sick person walks through a supermarket, even without directly encountering anyone, his or her hands will likely contaminate the shopping cart, that may infect the unlucky 10 – 15 people per day that use it over the next few days, by hand-to-mouth.  Consequently, and perhaps most important, healthy people become infected by touching a contaminated surface, and then touching a mucous membrane (eyes, mouth, nose) without decontaminating their hands.  But, the virus cannot penetrate unbroken skin, so if even you touch an infected surface you can wash your hands or sterilize them with 70% alcohol or 10% bleach to protect yourself. Make a habit of washing your hands with warm soapy water, and when you are out and away from a sink use 70% alcohol to sterilize them.

3. Re‐organize the home environment.At present our city and the university are free of coronavirus, but that will soon change. Now is the time to prepare for a situation in which a percentage of residents are carrying COVID‐19. Yesterday 14% of 1500 people tested in New Rochelle, NY were carrying the virus. Soon, whenever we leave our homes, we will venture into a potentially infectious situation. Besides the possibility of direct contamination, the foods and other items that we bring home are a risk, because they are prepared, packed and shelved by people who we know nothing about, who might be infected or sick with COVID‐19. The mushrooms and broccoli that we cooked last night were from Watsonville and Soledad CA, respectively; today CA reports that 400 of its residents are infected.  At its current growth rate, in a week that number, which is probably a gross underestimate, will rise to >3000. California is just an example; many places that we obtain food and merchandise from have similar levels of infection. Unfortunately, within days or a week people here in town will be infected too. The bottom line is to make your home a sanctuary from any threat of infection by COVID‐19. To do so, we decontaminate things that come into our home. At present these precautions may seem extreme, but we are facing a potentially lethal virus that is unprecedented in recent history. The decisions that we make and the actions that we take are literally life‐and‐death choices. Why take chances with the lives of loved ones?

a. We installed a table in our garage, on which we spray potentially contaminated things with bleach or alcohol, before they enter our home. Most of our foods are packed in plastics anyway, so it’s easy to spray them down. Use your best judgment about what needs decontamination, but anything that was handled by several people should be either cleaned or well‐cooked. Assume that the exterior of anything you purchase might carry particles of live virus.  When shopping, try to use your credit card instead of cash or coins, and spray it with alcohol before putting it back in your wallet.  When you return home from shopping or other errands, leave your shoes in the garage and put on some shoes that never leave the house.

b. Besides the garage, divide your home into different areas, for: incoming unpacking/triage/decontamination, cooking, eating. We have a space in the kitchen to place incoming stuff that we are unsure about. Do not place incoming bags of groceries, packages or mail directly on the countertops used for food preparation. Decontaminate the contents first, and then start cooking. It’s unlikely that COVID-19 will survive during transit in the mail because its survival is much shorter on porous surfaces.  Nevertheless, the people that handled the mail during delivery might be infected, so after opening mail discard the envelopes and packaging and wash your hands.  After shopping, wash and decontaminate your hands, and then unpack, decontaminate and store your items.  Throw the bags away in the trash.  You can spray or soak fresh produce that you want to eat raw (celery, carrots, lettuce, broccoli peppers, etc.) with a dilute solution  of (unscented) CHLOROX (0.75% = 1.5 ts per gallon of water); let it stand for at least 5 min and rinse with water before eating.   After unloading, decontaminating and storing everything, wash your hands again before food preparation.

c. De‐clutter and organize the countertops and tables in your kitchen. To keep your kitchen safe, it’s necessary to frequently and easily clean all these surfaces with bleach or alcohol. Throw away anything unnecessary, store anything decorative, put away everything not in use, and keep counters and the sink clear. In the morning, before cooking, and in the evening before bed, spray the countertops, eating areas and sinks with 10% CLOROX and wipe them down with a clean cloth.  You may want to wipe the countertops with alcohol before using them during the day.

d. Carry a small spray bottle of 70% alcohol in your pocket or purse, and use it to decontaminate anything you are skeptical about: your hands, your steering wheel, your door handles, your computer keyboard, your phone, your keys, shopping cart handles, touchscreens. Liquid/gel hand sanitizers also contain 60‐70% alcohol and they work fine, but they are less penetrating than an alcohol spray, and more difficult to apply to surfaces. 70% alcohol will not damage glass, plastic, metals or your skin. It will dry your skin, so it’s a good idea to also use hand creams to re‐moisturize.

e. Change your clothes regularly and do not re‐wear clothes that you wore outside without washing them. When you leave your home you are entering environments that might contain COVID‐19, and it could get on you clothes when you are working in an office or sitting in a chair. When in doubt, wash it. If you can’t wash it, then hang it in a closet for a week. COVID‐19 does not survive as long on porous surface like fabrics.

f. Don’t go to restaurants, bars, clubs, churches, theaters or any other place where people congregate. Do not invite other people into your home.  Do not go to health clubs or gyms.  Try to do as much as possible electronically from home with your computer or phone. Avoid trips outside the home; shop as infrequently as possible. The next few months will be critical in the fight against this organism. It’s a good time to stay home with the family, to write, read, stream entertainment, watch the news and listen to Dr. Fauci. If you follow these approaches it will maximize the chance of avoiding sickness from the coronavirus.

Additional notes on Mar. 19, 2020

Without a vaccine or an effective anti-viral drug, the only approach left to stop the pandemic is to eliminate person-to-person transmission.  China’s response of complete, militarily enforced quarantine in Hubei province leveled off the incidence and the mortality of the epidemic within 2 months, at a total of 3200 deaths (only 34 new cases, and no deaths reported yesterday).  South Korea took a similar approach.  As a result, the number of new cases in these countries plummeted, and the infection is under control (see the graph below, from today’s New York Times).  Looking at the responses of Italy, Iran, Spain and the US, all of which initially did nothing to contain it, the results are strikingly different: exponential growth of the virus and exponential death of infected individuals, neither of which shows any indication of subsiding.

.

The bottom line is that many, many people are going to die from this pandemic, and the only thing we can do, until vaccines or treatments are available, is to stop transmitting it person-to-person.

P.E. Klebba, Ph.D